2016 Prospect Report: Lucas Giolito
David Kerr gives an in-depth analysis of the Nationals rising star.
Lucas Giolito, Starting Pitcher, Washington Nationals
Weight: 255 lbs.
2015 Minor League Stats (A+ & AA): 3.46 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 131 Ks, 10.1 K/9
When it comes to prospects, there is one player that sits atop the pitching world and that is Nationals rising star Lucas Giolito. It hasn’t been an easy road for Giolito to date—he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012 while still in high school. Even with a torn UCL, his pedigree was so high that he was still drafted in the first round at No. 16 overall. He has made Baseball America’s Top 100 list for four straight seasons, including a No. 5 ranking this year.
There is so much to love about Giolito that it is hard to pick a place to begin. This is not a guy with a good fastball and decent junk mixed in. No, Giolito has at least two legitimate plus-pitches right now and each will continue to develop over time. Most scouts have graded Giolito’s fastball at an 80. That is quite literally the best mark possible. He routinely cranks it up to the high-90s and can touch triple digits on occasion. What’s more telling about the fastball, though, is the downhill plane in which it travels making it all the more deceptive. On top of a freakish fastball, Giolito throws a power curveball with a 12-to-6 drop that will stifle opposing bats, allowing the top prospect to record plenty of punchouts.
Another glaring positive to Giolito’s game is his overwhelming size. Built like a tank, Giolito is an intimidating 6-foot-6 and 255 lbs. Think a right-handed Randy Johnson with less height and more meat. As with most young pitchers, Giolito’s command still needs some polishing, though it is still ahead of the vast majority of players his age. With continual development to his changeup in Triple-A this year, Giolito could enter the major leagues with three plus-pitches, instantly giving the Nationals yet another potential ace.
Looking deeper into Giolito’s minor league numbers provides us with a wealth of information of what’s to come in the future. He’s pitched at four different minor league levels and the only stop that gave him any type of problem was Double-A last year. Most of his trouble with Double-A Harrisburg could be attributed to his first two starts where he gave up 10 earned runs in 10 innings pitched. He followed his rocky start by giving up two or fewer earned runs in five of his final six starts, including a seven-inning, one-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts against the Bowie Baysox on Aug. 14. Giolito has poise that will continue to evolve.
Giolito has elite strikeout potential as evidenced by his career 10.0 K/9 over four minor league stops. Clearly, with more polishing and harnessing of his control, that number could rise over time. He has walked a respectable 2.8 batters per nine innings pitched which shows that he already has advanced control. As he continues to evolve after reaching the major leagues, an elite strikeout-to-walk ratio is not out of the question.
For fantasy owners, Giolito is at the top of any rankings list for minor league players. He repertoire and advancement at such a young age is reason to celebrate. He will likely start the 2016 season at Double-A, but could advance to Triple-A quickly. Depending on where the Nationals are at in the standings following the All-Star break, Giolito could be brought up to join the rotation or provide the team with a power arm out of the bullpen. He can be avoided in redraft leagues, but should be drafted as a late round flyer in keeper leagues given his immense upside.